Tony Bechara and Anita Durst

Photo Coverage: The Chashama Gala Honors Tony Bechara

It's a joyous celebration in Times Square; The Chashama Gala and Art Party is like New Year's Eve in June!

By Leah Lane - It was my honor to join the Chashama Board and host the Chashama Art Party this year. Chashama is known for their outrageous annual gala and art party, and this year was no disappointment. The Gala presented over 150 artists in an immersive labyrinth of installations and performances on June 7th. Highlights included, fire meets art showman, Flambeaux and his gorgeous wax covered troupe, melting and dripping burning candles onto each other and willing patrons, VR masked artists on Toto bidets with keyboards, performers moonlighting as sushi platters, stiletto heeled pole dancers, painters, acrobats, and Harlequin clowns with sparkle and confetti guns. It's a joyous celebration in Times Square; The Chashama Gala and Art Party is like New Year's Eve in June!

One of the best things about the Chashama art party is that is not a static exhibit; it is interactive and evolving in front of your eyes. Many of the installations encourage participation, so patrons are part of the creation. Its an opportunity to let your hair down, your creative juices flow and join hundreds of leaders from corporate, cultural, and philanthropic sectors who believe that art can change the world.

This year, the gala honored internationally-renowned multidisciplinary artist and patron of NYC's creative communities, Tony Bechara, and IVY: The Social University inspiring emerging leaders through engagement with arts and culture. Darcy Stacom, Chairman of NYC Capital Markets, CBRE was the benefit chair.

Chashama was founded in 1995 by Anita Durst to celebrate the legacy of theatre visionary Reza Abdoh. Chashama's initial focus was on the production and presentation of new theatre. Recognizing that a lack of affordable space was the biggest threat to sustaining a diverse cultural environment in New York City, so Chashama began to work toward securing studio and presentation space in Midtown Manhattan for struggling artists by partnering with Property Owners that provided access to unused space. The organization currently presents 150 events a year in all five boroughs, provides workspace for 120 artists, and has developed 80 workshops in under served communities.

Anita Durst, scion of the real estate empire, is an enterprising arts advocate, leveraging her family connections in real estate and banking to create her own legacy. Through Chashama, Durst has provided space to over 15,000 artists, hosting over 2,500 public art events, and reaching an audience of nearly half a million people in the past 23 years. Anita Durst is shepherding a parade of thousands of artists through New York City, and I can't wait to see where she leads us.

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Photo Credit: Walter McBride